SC may ask law panel to examine hate speech issue

New Delhi, Feb 19: The Supreme Court may consider referring to the Law Commission a plea seeking action by the Election Commission against political parties whose leaders indulge in making inflammatory speeches preaching hatred against people coming from other regions.

A bench of Justice B.S.Chauhan, Justice M.Y.Eqbal and Justice A.K.Sikri indicated this in the course of the hearing Wednesday of a petition by NGO Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan seeking directions to the poll panel to act against the political parties whose leaders make hate and derogatory speeches exploiting caste, religious, regional and ethnic identities of the people.

As senior counsel Basava Patil appearing for the NGO urged the court to pass direction to the poll panel to act against such political parties, the court once again expressed its inability as it asked how the powers of magistrate be given to the poll panel after elections are over.

The court also asked the senior counsel how can a comment or a speech by a member of a party could have a bearing over the entire party.

“First of all we will have to define the hate speech and then who will be the person whose statement (in the nature of hate speech) would affect the party.”

The court said that one can understand if a political party passes a resolution that is inflammatory to attract an action by the poll panel.

Additional Solicitor General Siddhartha Luthra said that a mere assertion of one linguistic or geographical identity could be construed by the other negatively.

The court said that one can approach the Natural Human Rights Commission if there are utterances against the people from a particular geographical area.

Senior counsel Meenakshi Arora, appearing for the poll panel, said: “The Election Commission can’t take notice of any comment outside the Model Code of Conduct.”

Arora told the court that the matter could be referred to the Law Commission which is examining comprehensive electoral reforms.

The court asked all the parties to submit their written submissions for its consideration within 10 days as it adjourned the hearing.

Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan, in its petition, has contended that numerous hate and derogatory speeches made by the elected representatives, political and religious leaders on caste, religion, region and ethnic lines were violative of the articles 14 (Equality before law), 15 (Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste or place of birth), 16 (Equality in matter of public appointments), 19 (Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech) and 21 (Protection of life and liberty) read with the Directive Principle of State Policy.

Referring to the hate speeches by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Akbaruddin Owaisi, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s international working president Praveen Togadia, it said that their utterances of these leaders were destroying the fabric of democracy, unity and integrity of the country.

The NGO has urged the court to declare that “fraternity” in the preamble of the constitution formed the part of the basic structure of the constitution.

IANS